After being satiated with crumbling Khmer temples and visions of Lara Croft it was time to board our plane for a short flight to Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh. Located at the meeting place of three rivers, the Mekong, Tonle Sap and Bassac this city of 2 million continues to recover from the nightmare years of the Khmer Rouge. Once known as the Pearl of Asia there are still remnants of its French colonial past.
Going to Vietnam the first time was life-changing for sure. Maybe because it was all so new and different to my life before and the world I grew up in. The food, culture, landscape, and smell; they’re all inseparable. It just seemed like another planet; a delicious one that sort of sucked me in and never let go.Anthony Bourdain
While there we visited the Royal Palace which thankfully has been restored to much of its former glory. There are also a number of restaurants along the riverfront that cater to westerners and upwardly mobile locals. One that I enjoyed for its view and Western menu was the Foreign Correspondent's Club which is open to the public. Sitting at the bar I could imagine working on tomorrow's byline, drink firmly in hand while the world or that which is borne on the Tonle Sap river floats silently by.
However, my favorite restaurant in Phnom Penh is run by an organization called Friends-International “Mith Samlanh” in Cambodian. Friends-International works with street children in a developmental and sustainable perspective in accordance with the Convention of the Rights of the Child (UN-CRC). The organization runs two main restaurants and the one I prefer is called Romdeng Restaurant and is located at #21 Street 278. It carries food from several provinces in Cambodia. The waiters are all former street kids as I assume are many of the cooks but contrary to what you might think the service and presentation of the food would put many upscale establishments in the United States to shame. The idea is to teach skills adequate to find work in the burgeoning tourist service industry along with a sense of pride and accomplishment.
We left Phnom Penh by speed boat to Chau Doc in Vietnam. Our trip to Cambodia was very eye and we hope for a better future for their people. Tourism will be a large part of that future but domination by their more powerful neighbors is a real threat.